By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
June 25, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman no longer has to walk the political tightrope involved with a coronavirus vaccination.
Whitman’s bosses on the university administration side took care of basically requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.
University of Illinois President Tim Killeen released a statement Monday stating it will be a requirement that all students receive a vaccination if they plan to be on campus starting for the upcoming fall semester.
Killeen’s statement and notice to all university employees and students says “students at all three campuses (Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield) must receive a complete course of COVID-19 vaccines before the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester if they are able to do so.”
The notice does say it will not be planning to require faculty and staff members to be vaccinated to be on campus but “faculty and staff who are not vaccinated will have to continue to wear face coverings and participate in the COVID-19 testing program.”
The requirement by the U of I marks the first public university in the state to place a requirement on students to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Whitman stated last week in his annual media roundtable that his athletics department would be “expecting but not requiring” all Illini student-athletes would get the vaccine. Whitman confirmed he had not been advised by university counsel to not require the vaccine to reduce the threat of potential litigation from putting such a requirement in a scholarship/financial aid agreement to athletes.
A senior Illinois athletics official has confirmed to IlliniGuys that this university requirement will essentially force all U of I student-athletes to get the vaccine in order to be eligible to compete this upcoming season regardless of what the Big Ten Conference or NCAA requires of any of its member institutions.
Whitman, who has received the COVID-19 vaccine, told media members last week that 68 percent of all Illini student-athletes are already fully vaccinated and 90 percent of coaches/staff are vaccinated.
Whitman said last week he was hoping the “incentives” of being vaccinated, which would include not being forced to wear a mask, stay socially distant and not being required to participate in daily PCR testing, would incentivize all Illini athletes to acquire the vaccine.
The statement from Killeen does say exemptions will be made for students with preexisting medical conditions precluding them from receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
“We acknowledge that some individuals have health conditions or other reasons why they cannot be vaccinated,” Killeen’s statement reads. “For those individuals, the COVID-19 testing program and face coverings will continue to be required.”
The Illinois athletics department announced on June 11 that all on-campus sporting events will be allowed to be open for full capacity for the 2021-22 sports season including games at Memorial Stadium and basketball games at State Farm Center.
"We are excited to be the first college football kickoff at 100% capacity in nearly 20 months," Illini head coach Bret Bielema said in a university release. "The combination of being the first college football game of the season and being at full capacity will allow our fans to show the country that Memorial Stadium is an electric environment. I know our players can't wait to see Grange Grove lined with the Illini famILLy during our team's walk into the stadium and hear more than 60,000 fans going crazy in Memorial Stadium against Nebraska."
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